They say it’s the hope that kills you, and tonight was exactly that.
Arsenal dominated the game and scored a deserved goal when Olivier Giroud lashed in from close range. But after that, we showed Monaco too much respect and it paid in the end.
The game plan was clear – keep it tight, score a goal in the first half and then build on that in the second. Unfortunately, we didn’t push on as much as we needed to in the second half.
I understand that we needed to keep Monaco at bay but the majority of possession was sterile and sideways – Özil being the most guilty of that. There comes a point in the game where you really kick on and turn up the pressure but we were too patient and turned on the switch too late.
The introduction of Aaron Ramsey gave the team that extra lift and he did well to score his goal – but it was all left a little too late. We always needed to score 3 goals anyway so Arsene Wenger should have thrown caution to the wind earlier on, rather than with 25 minutes remaining.
We had the chances to score and in the end Monaco had the luck. Giroud had a chance which bounced off him and was fortunate to land in the goalkeepers arms, and Danny Welbeck had a shot fortunately blocked by a Monaco defender who was already on the floor.
Theo Walcott hit the post, and Arsenal should have scored but Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez ended up getting in each others way.
The performance was very good, but too patient. With Olivier Giroud on the pitch, and with Mertesacker and Koscielny going up towards the end, we should have really belted balls into the box and given Monaco something to think about – but even with 10 minutes left, and even in injury time – we persisted in sideways passing instead of fizzing the ball into the penalty area.
There were also chances where I was screaming for Arsenal to shoot, but they ended up playing that extra pass.
The sad thing is that Arsenal performed fantastically tonight in an away game, in the Champions League. Even though the first leg ended up killing us off, we did enough tonight to progress. If you evaluate the two legs we were the better team. We did really well tonight and naive in the first leg – Monaco were good in the first leg but non-existent in the second.
It’s an all too familiar story for Arsenal fans and tonight I feel devastated, dejected and deflated. You’re hoping and praying that Arsenal can fashion 3 good goal-scoring opportunities to give us a chance of that 3-0 we needed and we were so so close.
There’s not much more we could have done tonight overall – we defended excellently (when Monaco did decide to actually attack) and generally, we played very well. The one thing I regret is the lack of urgency and incisiveness upfront. We got into excellent positions and needed to be more clinical. Giroud and Ramsey both took their goals well but tonight is one of those nights where a truly world class striker makes the difference – someone who can take a half chance or fashion something out of nothing.
Yet another year where we get knocked out at the first stage and it’s back to focusing on the FA Cup and Premier League. It’s the same old feeling Arsenal fans are only too familiar with – major disappointment and the feeling that we could have qualified.